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Much Abrew: Manaless Dredge (Modern)


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. This week, we are playing one of the craziest decks in Modern: Manaless Dredge! The deck's gimmick deck is simple: we have literally zero lands or other ways to produce mana, which makes the deck play in a really unique way. The idea is that we choose to draw first and then (hopefully) discard a dredge card to hand size on Turn 1, and then we parlay that into a bunch of free graveyard value by dredging every turn. Is it actually possible that a deck with zero lands can win in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Much Abrew: Manaless Dredge

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Discussion

  • Yes, the build of Manaless Dredge we played for our videos had Once Upon a Time. The good news is that Once Upon a Time isn't actually very good or necessary in the deck. (Playing more copies of Golgari Thug, Sword of the Meek, and Salvage Titan likely improves the deck even if Once Upon a Time were still legal in the format—in our experience, Once Upon a Time was the ultimate trap card, making us think we could keep a hand without a dredger and then almost never hitting a dredger.)
  • Record-wise, we ended up going 2-3 with Manaless Dredge, which is actually a lot better than I had expected. (I was worried we wouldn't win a match.) The deck can actually be pretty powerful when it gets a good starting hand, although it is also wildly inconsistent and easy to hate out.
  • By far the hardest part of playing Manaless Dredge is figuring our which opening hands you can keep. Basically, for a hand to be keepable, we need a dredge card (either Stinkweed Imp or Golgari Thug) or maybe Phantasmagorian, depending on what the rest of our hand looks like. The problem is that we also can't really mulligan with the deck (unless we have Serum Powder) since every mulligan we take puts us another turn away from discarding to hand size, which is our only way to start dredging and filling our graveyard). Even before Once Upon a Time was banned, we wanted more dredge creatures, and now that it is no longer legal, going up to four copies of Golgari Thug is a really easy choice to help ensure we have a dredger in our opening seven as often as possible. 
  • Phantasmagorian is tricky. Sometimes, we can keep an opening hand that has no dredger but has a Phantasmagorian, but this usually involves either multiple Hollow Ones or multiple Vengevines along with at least two free creatures to get the Vengevines into play from our graveyard. It's also important to keep in mind that Phantasmagorian can allow us to discard six cards if we want to, by maintaining priority and activating it twice from the graveyard before it returns to our hand. 
  • As far as winning with the deck, we get some amount of free damage by dredging copies of Creeping Chill, but we're mostly relying on free threats. Hollow One can be played for free from hand once we have a Phantasmagorian to allow us to discard three cards, which, along with a free creature like Memnite or [[Ornithopter],] triggers our Vengevines to come back from the graveyard and also triggers our Prized Amalgams to come back at the end of turn. While it doesn't happen all that often, we can sometimes have 20 power as early as Turn 2!
  • Salvage Titan is a weird card, but it's really important to our deck's success. One of the pinches in the deck is having two creatures to cast to return Vengevine. Salvage Titan gives us a free creature that we can dredge into the graveyard, return to hand by exiling random artifacts that we mill (like Memnite and Ornithopter), and then cast for free by sacrificing some artifacts from the battlefield (ideally Sword of the Meek, which comes into play for free from our graveyard whenever we dredge a Narcomoeba or cast a Memnite). One of the most important parts of playing Modern Manaless Dredge (apart from figuring our which hands to keep) is managing your free creatures. After Turn 1, we want to spend basically every turn dredging, which means we don't actually draw any new cards, so we usually only get one shot at casting two free creatures to trigger Vengevine. Deciding when we need to get back a Vengevine or two as quickly as possible versus when it is better to wait until we stock our graveyard with more Vengevines and Prized Amalgams is tricky and takes some practice. 
  • So far, we've been talking about the upsides of the deck, so let's take a minute to talk about the downside: we literally cannot beat graveyard hate, and I'm not saying this in the hyperbolic "we really struggle against graveyard hate but occasionally win" sort of way but in the literal "it just can't happen" way. Since we don't have mana, we don't have a way to blow up something like Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, or Grafdigger's Cage, and we can't actually hard cast our bad dredge creatures like a traditional dredge deck. In theory, we can cycle three Street Wraiths and cast Hollow One, and we do have four Memnites that can chip in for one a turn. But for all intents and purposes, if our opponent plays something like Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace, we just scoop up our cards and go to the next game It's not even worth trying to win through it—the odds are as close to zero as they can be in a game of Magic
  • The deck's other big issue is inconsistency, mostly in not having a dredge card in our opening hand. We can't really afford to mulligan (minus Serum Powder), but we also can't afford to keep a hand without a dredge card since our deck doesn't do anything without a dredge card in the graveyard. Adding more dredgers over the now-banned Once Upon a Time is the easiest way to fix the problem. Having just six doesn't feel like enough—with eight or 10, the odds go up significantly that we will have one in our opening hand. 
  • All in all, Manaless Dredge doesn't feel like a competitive Modern deck. It is good enough to win some matches, as we learned in our video, but in reality, it's just too inconsistent and risky to actually be a good deck in the format. On the other hand, it is good enough that you could play it at something like an FNM and win a couple of matches while likely being the talk of the event. Having a massive board full of creatures and maybe even killing your opponent without any lands on the battlefield isn't something people expect to see in Modern!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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